Have you met Jax the Therapy Dog? R.C. Buckley Elementary School teacher Kelly Reitz loves her job. But like many other dog owners, her favorite part of the day is when she comes home from work and is welcomed home by her dog, Jax.
“He’s a tail-wagging, bundle of excitement,” said Ms. Reitz. “I wanted to share that happiness with others.”
Wanting to share the joy that Jax brings her to others, Ms. Reitz worked with Jax to get him certified as a therapy dog.
“A therapy dog's job is to be caring, affectionate, and bring joy to people,” said Ms. Reitz. “I couldn't think of a better job for Jax!”
Jax is a five-year-old Labrador retriever, who passed certification to become a therapy dog with flying colors. He is certified as a team with Ms. Reitz through Love on a Leash, a national organization. His training consisted of obedience classes, behavior tests, and supervised volunteer visits. During this training, Jax learned to not only be comfortable with loud noises and stressful situations, but also have good manners and be friendly and confident around new people. Following their certification, Jax and Ms. Reitz joined Cornell Companions, an organization that works to connect therapy pets to the community. Thanks to Cornell Companions, Jax and Ms. Retiz have visited libraries, summer camps, and children's festivals.
All of the training and certification work has certainly paid off in the best way for the Lansing community, as Jax is now a member of Ms. Reitz’s classroom. Jax began visiting R.C. Buckley in the spring of 2016. For the 2017-18 school year, Jax can be found in Ms. Reitz’s classroom every Friday.
“Jax loves his Friday visits,” said Ms. Reitz. “He jumps out of bed when my alarm goes off on Fridays and is ready to make a lot of people smile!”
Making people smile is one of Jax’s specialties. Every Friday during the school year, Jax does reading visits with groups of students, both small and large. Students are able to read aloud to Jax or tell him about a book they recently read. In doing so, students are able to not only improve their reading fluency, but also their comprehension skills.
“Students love being able to spend time with Jax,” said Ms. Reitz. “Jax isn’t the only one who is excited to come to school on Friday.”
In addition to reading groups, Jax also takes part in working on social and emotional skills. Working in small groups, students learn responsibility through taking care of Jax. Students are able to brush Jax, give him water, or walk him on a special leash. Students also have fun with Jax, playing games or practicing tricks with him. While taking part in these activities, students are learning important skills, including turn taking, impulse control, and empathy.
Jax also has plenty of time to visit with the Lansing Central School District faculty and staff before school starts each Friday.
“The faculty and staff love Jax's visits just as much as the students do,” said Ms. Reitz. “Just a quick hello in the hallway can make someone's day!”
To learn more about Jax and see his latest adventures, visit his Facebook page.
Written by Katie Jensen, CNYRIC